Finding a Version Control Solution with PDF Software

Right now there are 34 commercial word processing applications, seven freeware applications, nine online word processors and 12 open source offerings listed under Wikipedia’s List of word processors page. You can often open and read many documents created in one of the 62 different choices in any one of the others;  however, anyone who has had to work between file formats knows that there are always issues with compatibility.

Amazingly enough, it’s common to see documents created by different word processors in the workplace even though most organizations only install one type on their computers. Even still, other document file types find their way into the workflow because:

  • Different departments use different applications.
  • People work on things at home in the software installed on their computer.
  • Employees use tools like Google Docs so they can save their work to the cloud and get things done from various locations.

For the most part, there’s an easy work around if something like a font or line spacing doesn’t render properly across applications. You can simply cut and paste the document into the word processor that’s the office standard and then finalize it for distribution using your PDF software. You won’t lose content and you can share the document with people across the organization. While this band-aid solution may seem to work on the surface, however, there’s one rather large problem with it: version control.

Why version controlling messes everything up

Collaboration has become one of the most important buzzwords in business today. Just about every organization, regardless of size, encourages people to harness their talents and work together to get things done.

In a perfect world, where everyone is using the same software all the time, this presents no problems when a team of people is working collectively on a document. The original author turns on version control and every time another person edits the file, removes content, adds content or even leaves a comment, the software tracks those changes. When it comes to tracking a document as it moves to a final draft, some offerings are simple while others are extremely robust. Unfortunately, most of the built-in version control features in applications will not carry over to a file opened in a different word processor or to content copied and pasted between the two.

For example, Alice creates the original document in Microsoft Word and turns on Track Changes. Bob opens the file in LibreOffice at home and makes changes to it. He saves it in its native .docx format and sends it back to the group. Now Carol opens it at home in Apple Pages. She makes more changes, but doesn’t know which edits were Bob’s and changes some things back to wording similar to Alice’s original document. When Bob sees the file the next day, the document doesn’t look right because he knows he made changes to the wording.

This is a simple example, but it demonstrates the problem that can occur with version controls across competing applications.

PDF software to the rescue

Most people don’t think of PDF software as a viable solution for creating documents because:

  • It’s not as widely installed on the desktop as word processing software is.
  • It’s not thought to have robust enough editing tools.

The first reason is simply an organizational decision. If management chooses to install a PDF software solution then they can easily distribute it across the company, especially if they see the value in your teams using this tool.

The second reason may have been true in the earlier days of PDF software, but with newer versions, it’s no longer an accurate statement.

A pdf editor like Foxit PhantomPDF offers users a full feature set of tools for collaborating and editing documents.

For collaborating with peers, features like SharePoint® integration and commenting tools such as a comment summary, make it easy to share documents and follow along with suggestions throughout the work. The stamp feature can also highlight certain elements of the document that are important or need review.

PhantomPDF also has a robust set of editing tools not found in most PDF software applications. Users can:

  • Edit entire paragraphs
  • Move and resize text blocks
  • Modify and format text
  • Edit objects
  • Rearrange elements within the document
  • Customize pages
  • Edit images

Using the right PDF editor can make collaboration across the organization much more efficient. You no longer need to create and edit a document in one, or more, applications and then convert it to a PDF file as a final draft. Using a tool like PhantomPDF allows you to manage the entire process, from draft to publication, using just one tool. That’s the best kind of version control there is.


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